Let There Be Light International’s Executive Director, Sarah Baird, spent 3 days in Atlanta at the Climate Reality Leadership Training with Al Gore and 2,050 activists, advocates, attorneys, educators, and engaged citizens from around the world. Youth leader Sarah Dobson was invited to be LTBLI’s guest blogger on the training. Dobson is a British Environmental Policy Masters student who volunteers as the Operations Coordinator for the UKYCC (UK Youth Climate Coalition).
A Weekend With Al Gore
by Sarah Dobson
Last week’s Climate Reality Leadership training, founded by environmental all-star Al Gore, centered on environmental justice and lined up diverse and gender-balanced panels to teach us the importance of equity in the environmental movement.
My top 5 takeaways:
- Start with the local
Identify environmental issues in your community. Perhaps focus on a polluted pond or nasty air pollution. Mobilizing people will make them more engaged in wider environmental issues. But, never lose sight of how fighting these issues helps the local community. Switching to solar might give you more control of your energy bills or energy efficiency retrofits might lift the energy burden on communities. Fight like your world depends on it, but start like your neighborhood depends on it.
- Equity and justice
We are fighting climate change because of systemic inequity and injustice. You can’t just ‘include’ equity and environmental justice. Equity and Justice are the foundation the climate change movement rests upon. This is equally important for the ‘inclusion’ of people of color. You cannot just ‘include’ people who make up the majority of the earth’s population. Check your actions and your privilege and remember that ‘inclusion’ is a right not a favor.
Make yourself more engaging by working on your narrative and giving people something to emotionally connect with. For example, don’t say “97% of scientists believe in climate change” say, “If you went to the hospital and the doctor told you to get life-saving surgery, would you get it? What if you went to 100 doctors for a second opinion and 97 told you to get the surgery? Would you get it then?” Even better, tell your authentic story to connect with others.
- Democracy and the Environment
Campaign finance violations are environmental issues. Voter suppression is an environmental issue. Electoral systems which give some communities no power are environmental issues. We need to fight systems of oppression by speaking truth to those in power. The biggest victories of the environmental movement have been when we take democracy back into our own hands. The youth are doing that every time we strike for climate. As Mr. Gore says “It’s great to change our light bulbs, but it’s better to change our laws”.
- Don’t build that which we will have to tear down later
Fighting climate change is our biggest chance to reform our infrastructure, but we must be careful to make this a just transition. If we recreate the same systems of inequity, the same oppression will continue. If fossil fuel companies transition to renewable energy and continue to control access, they will continue to charge high fees and pay low wages to maximize profits. Let’s do the hard work now and use environmental solutions to solve the social problems of our communities!